Manufacturing Issues Could Tip Indiana To Trump

Manufacturing accounts for a greater percentage of workers in Indiana than in any other state, but over the last 15 years it's lost about 170,000 jobs.

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Indiana. (Michael Conroy/AP Photo)
Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Indiana. (Michael Conroy/AP Photo)

When Ted Cruz and John Kasich disclosed their unusual plans to target Republican frontrunner Donald Trump by splitting their efforts in upcoming GOP primaries, Indiana became the top priority for Cruz's campaign.

The Hoosier State's demographics — particularly its large share of evangelical voters — appeared to mirror the sites of the Texas senator's previous primary victories.

But as polls instead showed Trump poised to win Indiana on Tuesday — and move closer to sewing up the GOP nomination — another group increasingly came into focus: manufacturers.

Manufacturing accounts for a greater percentage of workers and economic activity in Indiana than in any other state, but over the last 15 years, it lost about 170,000 positions, or one-quarter of its manufacturing workforce since 2000.

Many of those jobs — like other manufacturing positions nationwide — were lost due to increased technology and efficiency in factories, but the sector's struggles also made the state's voters particularly attuned to issues of overseas trade and outsourcing.

"I've lost three factory jobs in the last 10 years, to go to China or go to Mexico or go to somewhere out of the country," Columbus, Ind., primary voter Matt Coy told National Public Radio. "We're losing our jobs to everybody else. We need 'em back."

This year, on the Republican side, those issues are squarely in Trump's wheelhouse. During his Indiana appearances, the New York real estate mogul particularly focused on air conditioner manufacturer Carrier, which earlier this year announced plans to close its Indianapolis factory and move its operations to Mexico.

He pledged to "tax the hell" out of Carrier's air conditioners during an Indianapolis rally and predicted that "if I were in office right now, Carrier would not be leaving Indiana."

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Indiana. (Michael Conroy/AP Photo)Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Indiana. (Michael Conroy/AP Photo)

Cruz, who hopes an upset win in Indiana will help prevent Trump from securing a first-ballot nomination, called the Carrier move "a tragedy" but rejected using "the power of government to bully and abuse and punish those who don't do what they want."

"His response to every problem is to yell and scream and curse and insult people," Cruz said last month in Lebanon, Ind. "But he has no actual policy to fix the problem."

Some 1,400 workers affected by the Carrier shutdown, however, appear to be staying out of the GOP primary altogether. United Steelworkers Local 1999 endorsed Bernie Sanders, who polls showed trailing Hillary Clinton heading into the state's Democratic primary.

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